Laying hens should be laying eggs in their nice, fresh nest boxes, for the cleanest, freshest eggs. Do your hens lay their eggs in hay bales, on the ground, in tall grass -- everywhere but the nest boxes? Sometimes chickens can be very stubborn about this habit. These tips will encourage your hens to lay in their nest boxes, making sure you get the maximum number of fresh, clean eggs.
- Have enough nest boxes. One box for every 4 to 5 hens is the minimum for your hens to feel comfortably laying in them.
- Make nest boxes appealing. Ensure that your nest boxes are in a dark, quiet corner of the coop. Hens have the instinct to lay their eggs in a safe place. Boxes should be a few inches off the floor.
- Train them with a "nest egg." You can purchase fake ceramic eggs from feed or supply stores, or use a golf ball. When your pullets get ready to start laying, placing the fake egg in a nest box will give them the idea that the boxes are "the place" to lay their eggs, too.
- Keep them confined till mid-morning. Most hens lay early in the day, so by keeping them in the coop until most of the egg-laying is done, you maximize the chances that they'll lay in the nest boxes instead of finding a cozy place outside the coop.
- Make nest boxes soft and comfy. I notice that as our shavings get depleted in the nest boxes, the hens avoid them. Keep shavings or straw nice and fluffy to encourage laying in the nest boxes.